Wednesday, January 06, 2010

No Pressure...

Oh, Just Answer the Question, Honey is a New York Times article by Edward Wyatt about a new game show that features "academic geniuses" 6-12 years old answering questions for prizes. At each level of competition, the parents choose whether or not their children will advance to the next level.

Oh my. A few years ago, I watched Spellbound, the spelling bee documentary released in 2002. I was dismayed by the overwhelming pressure some of the parents put on their children to win the National Spelling Bee. (Remember the grandfather who pledged to feed 5000 people in India if his grandson won?)

10 comments:

Kathleen said...

Wow, that is just so wrong. As if children needed more pressure than they already have.

conuly said...

(Remember the grandfather who pledged to feed 5000 people in India if his grandson won?)

And if the kid lost, those 5000 people in India could just go starve?

Saints and Spinners said...

Kathleen: This is why I'm trying to allow my daughter to have as normal and low-key a childhood as possible before she takes over the opera world. ;)

Conuly: Thanks for dropping in! I've been thinking about you and meaning to stop by your LJ. And yes, that was the implication.

Lone Star Ma said...

Gracious. When I was a kid, I was so pissed at my mom because she wouldn't let me sign with an agent and break into commercial acting like lots of my friends at art school were doing. She let me do some dinner theatre and such but she was very clear that she wouldn't let show biz run our family life. I knew I was missing my best years and was not too understanding. I sure get it now, though.

tanita davis said...

Sheesh. That grandfather. That's equivalent to promising God some mitzpah or good deed in return for getting you out of jam. That's equivalent to praying for victory at a football game. That's... yucky.

Charlotte said...

Sigh. I know it's not the Important Issue, but all I think of when I read things like this is that I myself am now much much much to old to be a youthful prodigy of any kind. Sigh again.

I blame my mother. One of my her best friends had been a Child Prodigy, and had been scared for life, so my mother vowed never to pressure us. We had to pressure ourselves, and it just wasn't the same.

However, I have been comforting myself with thoughts of Grandma Moses...

Saints and Spinners said...

LSM: Just think, if you'd had your way over your mom's, you would probably be starring on "Lost" and we wouldn't have reconnected. I win! I win! :)

Charlotte: I think about that sometimes, too, and it's Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy of all things that helps me put some perspective on it. There is a certain effortlessness in innocence, and it's harder work when that experience ends, but Lyra is promised that she will have a greater understanding of the alethiometer for her years of study. In the world we live in now, I think of a friend of mine who was a writing wunderkind and suffered depression in his early twenties as a direct result.

I am comforted to know that many authors either begin their careers or hit their strides in their forties and beyond.

Saints and Spinners said...

Tanita: I didn't tell you that the same grandfather paid 1000 people to pray for his grandson, did I? I suppose he thought he was doing the right thing for his grandson, and I wonder how much of my recoil has to do with a basic lack of understanding of another culture. The person I was rooting for to win the Spelling Bee was Ashley White, "the girl from D.C.", and the only one without tutors and other advantages. I look her up periodically to see how she's doing. Here's an article from 2008: http://bit.ly/6cW3cB She's been homeless AND a young mother, but now she's graduated from Howard and according to the article, was heading to grad school. Go Ashley!

Wendy said...

This reminds me of a book I love, The Trouble With Jenny's Ear by Oliver Butterworth... an old book which taps into multiple fascinating issues, like child prodigies and dangers/uses of technology and overdevelopment of land and the game show scandals. Plus it is HILARIOUS.

Sondy said...

Wendy, I love The Trouble with Jenny's Ear, too!

I'm with Charlotte. I was a star student and would hear about people like that and want to try it. But nope, no national fame for me! (Probably just as well. I get to keep my fantasy that I COULD have done great things!)

I think what's really awful about the new game show is that the parents are the ones deciding if the child should go on or not. It's one thing to have parents allowing their kids to be on a show like that or not -- but each question? Ouch, the pressure!